When Karen Rontowski isn't looking for laughs, she is hunting for ghosts.
Rontowski appears Monday to Jan. 15 at The Comedy Stop Cafe & Cabaret in The Quarter at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City. A tarot reader for 20 years and a paranormal expert for the past 10 years, Rontowski is known for her ghost hunts in old theaters, studios and homes.
A Los Angeles resident, Rontowski has been doing stand-up for about 20 years.
"My Facebook page is almost all comics and mediums, so it's a very strange, but entertaining posting all the time," said Rontowski, who added curiosity is the biggest trait people need to involve themselves in paranormal searches and ghost hunting.
Rontowski said she almost always knows the places she is visiting are haunted.
"Now that people really know that I do this, the better places are opening up to me," said Rontowski.
The last time Rontowski came to Atlantic City, she received a call from a friend in Pennsylvania asking her to take a look at her sister's house. Rontowski thinks it might have been the most haunted place she's ever been. Rontowski also has been to Burlington Prison in Mount Holly, Burlington County, where she encountered some ghostly happenings. All the lights went down and came up while she was there and equipment started to operate on its own, she said.
"It was kind of a phenomenal moment. It wasn't one thing. It was two or three things happening at once. A lot of ghost hunting is sitting around for hours and doing nothing," Rontowski said. "When something like that happens, it's just fantastic."
Rontowski tells some paranormal activity jokes in her stand-up act.
"There's all kinds of hauntings. There is a residual haunting, and that's a ghost that just does the same thing over and over that it did in life. That's why I eventually want to move into a house that's haunted by a maid," Rontowski said.
Rontowski has been a regular at The Comedy Stop for five years.
The Comedy Stop's owner and producer Bob Kephart started booking Rontowski based on the recommendation of a comedian he knew. Her honing of her craft is beginning to pay off as she made her debut on the "Late Show with David Letterman" in the fall and has completed several TV pilots to be shopped around this year, including "Karen's Supernatural Junkyard."
"I do remember that she was special from the beginning," said Kephart, who books an average of six female comics annually. "Finding a talented female comic who isn't obnoxious, who can make both sexes laugh, is very hard in the business."